Without question, the UC Davis men are not where they expected to be at this point.
The Aggies (3-7) have lost five consecutive games, including three at home after Saturday’s 87-81 overtime loss to Nevada.
But unlike earlier home losses to Sacramento State and Idaho, in which the Aggies lost second-half focus, much to the chagrin of coach Jim Les, the Aggies played with vigor against Nevada, especially with senior forward Josh Ritchart (17.3 points, 6.6 rebounds) sidelined with a right leg injury.
Junior guard Corey Hawkins had his best game of the season with a game-high 34 points, and freshman Brynton Lemar scored a season-high 16 points with no turnovers in 34 minutes, and his end-to-end layup with seven seconds left in regulation forced overtime.
Forwards Georgi Funtarov, a freshman from Bulgaria, had 13 points, and Iggy Nujic, a junior from Australia, scored 10 points.
There were eight ties and 15 lead changes.
“They battled for 45 minutes tonight, played hard and played together,” Les said Saturday. “Nobody hates to lose more than I do. When they battle like that, you have to say the other team made more plays and move on.”
The Aggies will have an even bigger challenge Saturday – at Stanford (6-2), which hasn’t played since Dec. 1.
The Cardinal is looking at UC Davis as a tuneup before visiting No. 9 Connecticut on Dec. 18 and facing Michigan in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Dec. 21.
Stanford has won 16 of 17 games against the Aggies. UC Davis’ only win was 64-58 in 2005 at The Pavilion, one of two games in the series played in Davis.
Saturday’s game, to be televised by the Pac-12 Networks’ Bay Area channel, also may feature a duel of two former area small-school stars.
Ritchart played at Forest Lake Christian, and Stanford senior reserve guard Robbie Lemons played for Sacramento Country Day. They combined to average 62 points as seniors in 2009-10.
Lemons’ 36.4-point average led the Sac-Joaquin Section and the state and was No. 2 nationally, just ahead of Hawkins’ 36-point average for Estrella Foothills of Goodyear, Ariz.
Ritchart, whose availability Saturday is up in the air, averaged 25.6 points, tied for fourth in the section with Ponderosa’s Brad Waldow, now at Saint Mary’s.
The Hornets didn’t get any breaks from the officials in a 69-51 loss in their first game against the Miners. UTEP attempted 31 more free throws and made 30 of 45 attempts. The Hornets were whistled for 29 fouls, with Cody Demps and Jordan Salley fouling out.
Junior guard Mikh McKinney had a game-high 22 points and a strong all-around performance in trying to take up some of the slack when senior point guard and team co-captain Dylan Garrity went down with a left ankle injury in the first half. Garrity’s X-rays were negative, though his status for Saturday’s game is uncertain.
Moreno scored a career-high 28 points in a 103-99 win over San Jose State and had 13 points in a 94-92 win against previously undefeated Saint Mary’s.
For the week, she averaged 20.5 points, 5.0 assists and 4.5 rebounds while shooting 44 percent from the field and committing only two turnovers in 73 minutes.
Moreno is four points from becoming the 11th player in program history to score 1,000 career points, which she likely will reach Saturday when the Hornets (6-1) host UC Irvine (5-4).
The Aggies are 1-3 on their longest trip since moving to Division I in 2007-08.
After losing 97-37 at top-ranked Connecticut last Thursday, the Aggies fell 76-57 at Hofstra, despite a career-high 24 points by sophomore Alyson Doherty.
Poor long-distance shooting doomed the Aggies. They made just 8 of 59 3-point attempts in the two losses.